Hayden — On Friday, Sept. 6 the man known as Robert Lorona to some, Bob to many others, but, who will always be called Coach by his players, Robert Padilla Lorona, was honored on the field. Coach was honored in recognition of his distinguished service, loyalty and devotion to Hayden High School. The football field that is home to the 1972 A State Football Champions was renamed the Robert P. Lorona Football Field.
“Welcome families, friends and honored guest to the Lalo A. Serrano Stadium to honor a great man. The stadium will continue to honor Serrano but tonight we are here to dedicate the football field to a man who has devoted his life coaching upon this very field.” These were the words that began the ceremony. Coach Lorona was born and raised in Winkelman and graduated from Hayden High School before furthering his education at Arizona State University. Coach was shown the measure of the gratitude and fondness that the townspeople of Hayden have for him.
Attending the ceremony were Coach Lorona’s wife, Charlotte; son Robert “Pewee” and his wife Ernie with their children Elisa, Rene, Bobby, Melaine; and representing Rick are his children Geremino, Carol Enriques “KiKi”, Tanissa, and Marcos Sam. His youngest son, also was in attendance with his wife, Mary and their children Kristy and Sam Junior. His daughter Debbie, with her children, Reggie, Gloria, Ron, Amanda; and many great grandchildren were also in attendance. Of course, the honor would not have been complete without the attendance of his 1972 2A State Football Champions.
On that November night in 1972 when his underdog Lobos, in their finest hour, mauled the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets 22-12 in a game that has long been cherished and remembered, Coach Lorona did something that no other Hayden Coach has been able to repeat; that is, to win a Hayden 2A Football State Championship. Coach Lorona is quoted as having said, “These guys deserved that game. They worked their butts off.”
Lorona wasn’t new to the championship circle, having won two previous crowns with Lobo baseball teams, but this one stands out as one of his finest achievements as a coach.
“I probably was more knowledgeable about baseball, but these guys and I seemed to have the same mentality. Whatever I asked of them, they delivered. We understood each other and still do. Those memories will last forever,” said Coach of his championship team.
Lorona has been awarded many accolades over the years including Coach of the Year after the ’72 football victory. Perhaps, the two rewards he most cherishes are his lifetime pass to all Sun Devils sporting events award for recognition of his service while attending ASU and his honorary AIA Lifetime Pass to interscholastic games given for his dedication to high school sports.
Lorona was an outstanding baseball player in college, but his dream was to be a teacher. When he made it his reality, he returned to the community that inspired his educational journey and gave his time and energy to the student athletes whose lives he touched with his love of sportsmanship and teaching. A home grown product, Lorona decided at a very young age what he wanted to do with his life. He was in the sixth grade when the idea came to him. “I had a man teacher for the first time that year, who also was my coach. I couldn’t believe he was getting paid to teach and play ball with us. I made up my mind that was what I wanted to do,” said Coach Lorona.
He returned to his home town in 1952 to teach the sixth grade and to coach baseball, the sport he admits was always his favorite. During his 34 years in the Hayden-Winkelman District, Lorona served his students well. He was a very proud but humble man, a man his players will always call Coach!